The Hope Centre was built on an empty piece of land inside Shariya Camp, land that was used for football by the kids in Section A. Rather than show their support or excitement for that which was on their horizon, they ”ate us alive without salt” as the saying goes. I was naive in those days. I did not want a three meter high corrugated iron fence. I wanted the fence to be as thin as possible, “so that we can see out”. We purchased wire from Sumel. The shop owner warned us that it was inadequate. I did not listen. The Famous Five, who are now the core of our Music Academy, cut down our new fence overnight and sold it. And yes, to add insult to injury, they gathered to watch our next move. Back to Sumel where the owner wagged his finger and made sure that we knew that we had ignored his pearls of wisdom. Knowing that I was out of my depth regarding these kids' ability to make a quick buck, I followed advice. We upped again and purchased heavy barbed wire and ordered concrete posts to be made every meter. Remember our first plot required close to 400 meters of fencing. The cement man installed posts. The wire man attached the wire. We went home convinced that we had won the war. Not so. Next morning our Five were standing by posts toppled and crashed like Dagon with the most gleeful of grins. Needless to say we did not return to the wire man in Sumel. Corrugated iron panels supported by cement posts with iron bars were ordered. Unfettered the five shimmed up to the top, changed their strategy and began to pelt us with stones. We went to the market, purchased candy and invited them in. They stayed. For six years now. They became our core team, the ones who would always help, the ones that could be counted on. We became their home. A match made in heaven.
6 YEARS AGO…
Their first musical efforts were strained. Every event, whether high summer or winter consisted of Jingle Bells and some composition known to me as “little bird I have heard.” I finally banned both songs.
Fast forward six years, we find these wonderful young men on the stage at the University of Duhok. We look back at their past and laugh. It was all a part of their journey, a journey of passion, of discipline, of making hard choices, friends who are getting lost amongst the teen violence of the camp, young men who have chosen the narrow gate, the narrow path. Young men who are daily making choices for life, young men who count the cost, young men who have sacrificed much and gained more. Young men whose “clean living” lives have impacted both their families and friends. Young men who are changing the culture around them.
Young men on the stage as accomplished performers. Relaxed, natural, sure of themselves, immersed in their life calling as a musician.
“Hi there, my name is Ayman. I am displaced from Shingal and have a lot against me as I did not finish high school. I am trying to complete it now but it is hard. I have been a student and more recently an intern in the Hope Academy of Music for five years. I began from nothing having only heard the traditional Shingali renditions of the saz instrument. Slowly my mind opened to receive Classical music particularly as it could be interpreted on the guitar. It was an incredible honor to be invited by the President of the University of Duhok to participate in the event. It was an honor, it was a huge leap forward for me personally, yet I felt as if I had been waiting for this day all my life. It was so natural. I am even more committed since that day and will push myself even more. I thank Mr Natik and Springs of Hope for believing in me and giving me every opportunity.” Ayman
“This was a huge step ahead for us. We have played in many in house events in The Hope Centre, in local schools and of course in the wonderful summer events, Art in the Park but this was different. This was the University, and this was the President and all his VIPs in the front row. This was a different world. A world that we had visited when we came to art exhibitions or music rehearsals but a world that until this point, that we were not a part of. We played in front of some 250 people. Amazingly, we all felt relaxed and comfortable. The President was very impressed with our music and the students chatted with us after saying how much they loved the music and where and when they could hear us again. This was a great encouragement to me personally and it has driven me to desire perfecting my skill.” Tahsin
“We love playing together. We have become best friends and I think that shows in our music, Most of the Academy but not all, are tent kids, we are a fusion of Shingali and Walati ( born and raised in the village ). Our music is the best of Yezidi, with Kurdish, with Classical and our much loved Spanish Flamenco. We are happy when we play together, be it for ourselves or for an audience. Performing in the UoD was sheer joy for us. We were together, synched, a bunch of kids just hanging out having fun…just we happened to be on the University stage. I hope this is the sign of a new more public beginning for us all. We were born to be on stage.” Maram
“My dream was fulfilled on the day that we performed on a real size stage at the University. It was the first step towards fulfilling all of my dreams, namely to be a professional musician and to perform on stage. That morning both I and all my friends were musicians. We were not tent kids. We were not defined as being part of a minority group. We were musicians performing to a large and receptive audience. With the help of God and Springs of Hope, we will continue, we will improve and move ahead.” Rangeen
“We were known in the beginning as the Famous Five. Then we took the name Mafia. Now we are musicians whose life is 100% behind the blue gates we once tried to destroy, with SOHF who are our family. When we were rough they were gentle. They loved on us which disarmed us, they accepted us but they erected boundaries and made us respect them. We learned that they were for us, not against us and we learned to make SOHF our home. We have dug holes, helped build, painted, made food distribution, from the place of love and desire to be a part of this incredible place. Today we are all musicians, Walid on the keyboard, Aziz on percussion and keyboard, Adnan on flute and keyboard. Ido left but is coming back. I am on guitar. The Uni event was amazing. It lifted us higher and inspired us to rehearse more, improve ourselves, dedicate ourselves even more. Thanks to Mr Natik and SOHF for believing in us and not giving up on us.” Aziz K.
Natik Salim. Director of the Hope Academy of Music.
“It has been a long journey with these kids. Our Mafia kids. It has not been just a journey of teaching them to play music but teaching them how to live clean lives, how to stay away from trouble, how to be leaders not followers. We have taught them self respect, self value, self worth. When their fathers have divorced their mothers and cast them off, we have shown them how to support their mother and we have supported them. We have built some of them block houses, and we have provided food and clothes for over six years now. We have intervened with both families who did not believe in them and schools who disregarded them. Today I am so, so proud of these kids. These are kids who are becoming whole, cohesive members of society, of a society which they were not born into. As they progress they are also finding their voice. Their voice is the voice of the displaced and the refugee. Even though they may live in tents, their voice is strong, it is a voice which boldly exemplifies that their voice could not be crushed, could not be drowned, could not be extinguished. It is the voice of the brave, the voice of the courageous, the voice of the future. This event inspired us all to humility, to thank God for our talents and to work harder and be more, do more and give more to our community in thanks for what has been given us.” Natik Salim. Director of the Hope Academy of Music.
Thank you all for your belief and support of these tent kids who make the Hope Academy of Music that which it is. A Voice. A voice that can not be overlooked or swept to one side. A voice that is both present and fluid.
"For last year’s words belong to last year’s language And next year’s words await another voice."
In expectation of more, new and another in 2023. And with immense gratitude to the voice and sound of 2022.